We hear a lot about the regeneration of Swindon town centre these days. We see the plans for such schemes in local papers, hear of the councils grand machinations and visions for the future but the results, when they happen, always feel more of a like for like upgrade rather than anything changing the cultural landscape significantly. For me the really interesting developments are the result of a wave of independent thinking, a creative up swell happening in various random locations around town, more chaotic and wonderfully unique, small changes devoid of a unified plan and all the better for it. One such part of that change is Baila Coffee and Vinyl.
I found Baila not long after it opened in June 2014 and have since enjoyed not only its wonderful environment but also watching it evolve in many different directions. The core of the business is as a coffee shop, one specialising in rich and flavoursome quality brews and whilst all of the expected selections are available, Café Latte, Americano, Cappuccino, Mocha etc., it remains the antithesis of those identikit chains which are taking over the high street, driving out local business and who, it turns out don’t pay any tax anyway.
So why is this so different? Well, beyond the quality products and friendly vibe of the place, the first unique selling point is the vinyl rack, which again follows the shops quality over quantity way of operating. If you are looking for a cheap copy of Bat Out of Hell (though why would you be?) then this is not the place. If, however, you are hoping to find seminal albums and underground collectables, the cream of the leftfield, everything from rock and soul, dance and hip-hop, funk, pop and even more offbeat and unexpected treats, then this is the place for you.
The recent inclusion of an alcohol license has also added new dimensions. Again if you are after a pint of fighting lager or gassy keg beer, keep walking, but if bottled craft ales, classic cocktails, lesser spotted gins and quality wines are more to your tastes then you are on to a winner here. Plus the first on tap beer is set to be added to your options with Pistonhead being available from this weekend coming.
The sale of alcohol has also led to some music driven evening sessions. Although they have had occasional live music, from solo players to stripped down, slightly improvised band sessions, now with a fully stocked bar in place you can find a live DJ slot every Friday. And again it is set to offer something of an alternative to other options around town. Forget floor fillers, chart material and obvious requests; reflecting the music tastes as described above, their DJ’s are encouraged to dig deep and delve into obscure musical backwaters, lost soul sessions, underground funk, cool jazz, cult hip-hop and obscure psychedelia and deliver it in a non-obtrusive, musical backdrop kind of way.
And talking of music, that brings me to The Loft. Their small upstairs room is generally a children’s area during the day, a safe and fun environment for the little ones and a chance for mum to take a load off and catch up with friends, but the evening will see it become a compact and bijou venue with off beat gigs and private hire functions from parties to informal meetings or anything else the punter might have in mind…the world is your oyster, though they don’t serve those …yet.
But the bottom line is that this is a coffee shop first and foremost and it is my first choice when looking for an interesting and chilled retreat in Old Town. It is a haven for creatives, music aficionados, art-core types, small business meetings, students just hanging out and anyone looking for somewhere with charm and cheer. Great coffee and a very affable atmosphere…it’s not hard to see what all the Brew Ha Ha is about.